Two days ago I wrote in this space that the local media overplayed the story of the FBI’s announcement it would air TV commercials as part of its efforts to capture the fugitive Whitey Bulger and his girlfriend, Catherine Greig.
“Enough already,” I wrote. “When they catch him, then I’ll be happy to see it leading newscasts and blown out on the front page. Until then, it's not page-one material."
If I was wrong — and a couple of commenters forcefully said so — I have never been more happy to be wrong.
The Los Angeles Times broke the story shortly before midnight in Boston last night. I have the Associated Press app on my iPhone set to chime with a notification when an urgent story breaks, and I was sitting quietly reading when “ding” went my phone. I picked it up, took a look, and had to look again. And again.
Opening the AP app, I found nothing but a banner headline scrolling across the screen — no story yet — so I typed “Bulger” into a Google News search and came up with just seven hits. The main one was from the LA Times.
Gintautas Dumcius, the news editor of the Dorchester Reporter and a Twitter friend, tweeted the names of the two reporters who broke the story at about midnight: Reporters Robert Lopez, an investigative reporter and nightside blogger, and Andrew Blankstein, on of the paper’s crime reporters, had broken the story.
They carefully reported only the fact Bulger had been arrested and attributed it to “multiple law enforcement sources.”
He was arrested by the FBI inside a building without incident, according to the sources, who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak on the matter. The details surrounding his arrest were unclear Wednesday night.
The Associated Press followed with a brief story about 15 minutes later, citing as its source a sergeant in the Santa Monica Police Department who told the AP his department had been informed of Bulger’s arrest by the FBI.
The FBI issued no statement or press release late last night, but it did put a bold red banner reading “Captured” under the photo of Bulger on its Ten Most Wanted website — just like the bold red banner reading “Deceased” under the photo of Osama bin Laden.
Boston.com, BostonHerald.com and the websites of the local TV stations quickly put up the AP story (Boston.com posted an alert at the top of the main page) and then staff-written stories. At New England Cable News, apparently only meteorologist Matt Noyes was left in the newsroom after midnight, so he sat down at the anchor desk and read the bulletin.
In my blog post Tuesday about the local media’s obsession with Bulger, I wrote: “Just because editors have this stuff in the files doesn’t mean they should use it.”
Now they should use it. News doesn't get much bigger than this in this town. If you’re new to the story of Bulger and the FBI — and it is a sordid tale — Boston.com today re-posted its five-part investigative series on Bulger and the FBI. There have also been several books on the topic, the best of which is Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob, by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill.
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